Mysterious Deaths Of 21 Teens Prompts Arrest Of South African Bar Owner

A South African bar owner has been arrested following the deaths of 21 teens under mysterious circumstances.

Siyakhangela Ndevu, 52, who owns the Enyobeni Tavern in the coastal town of East London, was arrested over the weekend, according to authorities, and two bar employees were arrested on Tuesday. The cause of the shocking deaths has not been determined, although theories involving a gas leak or accidental poisoning have circulated. 

Ndevu will appear in court on August 19 to face charges of providing alcohol to minors. The two workers have been fined 2,000 rand ($118). More serious charges could follow, depending on the investigation.

“Just as we said in the beginning, investigation is a process and needs to be treated with extreme care,” Lt. Gen. Nomthetheleli Mene, provincial commissioner for the South African Police Service in the East Cape, said in a statement.

Mysterious Deaths Of 21 Teens Prompts Arrest Of South African Bar Owner

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The victims, 12 girls and nine boys ranging in age from 13 to 17, were reportedly celebrating the end of their June exams. Eighteen were later found dead at the bar with no physical sign of injuries and three died later at the hospital. The tragedy has garnered national attention and inspired a mass outpouring of grief in a country where binge drinking culture is pervasive and often lethal. Thousands of people attended the mass funeral of the children in the township of Scenery Park, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who delivered the eulogy for the young victims.

“Our hearts are broken. We have lost our children. In one night, here in Scenery Park, 21 bright lives were snuffed out,” he said. “…I have heard some say I have no business coming here to Scenery Park. Some have said I have bigger problems to fix. But I ask them, what is more important in this country, and on this earth, than the lives of our children?”

ABC News reported that an unknown chemical agent may have been responsible for the deaths at Enyobeni Tavern. A reported eyewitness, 22-year-old Sibongile Mtsewu, claimed that tear gas or pepper spray was released into the room, with locked doors trapping the patrons inside.

“The tear gas suffocated many people,” he said. “That’s why people died.”

Authorities have not confirmed Mtsewu’s account.

A string of deaths have occurred in South African bars in recent days. Two mass shootings last week killed at least 19 people.

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